Prisoner who has been swallowing razor blades seeks mental health supports

Prisoner who has been swallowing razor blades seeks mental health supports

Aodhan O'Faolain

A High Court challenge has been brought on behalf of a mentally-ill prisoner who has been harming himself by cutting himself, banging his head off walls, and swallowing razor blades and batteries.

The court heard man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been diagnosed with a variety of mental health and behavioural problems, and is deemed vulnerable to exploitation by others.

He is currently serving a lengthy custodial sentence, and the court heard that he has spent a large part of his life in various forms of detention in both psychiatric facilities, juvenile detention centres and prison.

He has been detained in various prisons within the state following his most recent conviction.

Counselling

It is claimed that in order to deal with his self harming the man needs both counselling and medication, which he is not currently receiving due to the Covid19 restrictions.

In judicial review proceedings against the Irish Prison Service the man seeks various orders and declarations including an order that the service take all necessary steps to protect him from self-harm.

The man also seeks various declarations including that the service has failed in its constitutional duty to protect the man's bodily integrity and that his rights under the European Convention of Human Rights have been breached.

Micheal O'Higgins SC, with Mark Lynam Bl for the man said that the man's application was urgent as there has been an escalation of incidents of him harming himself in recent months.

He had swallowed razors on two separate occasions, as well as batteries, and had also overdosed on pills. His actions had resulted in the man being hospitalised.

Self-harm

Counsel said that despite various warnings to the prison authorities that the man is prone to harming himself with razors, the man has been provided with razors in prison.

When provided with razor for shaving counsel said that sometimes the prison authorities did not subsequently recover the razors from him.

Directions given by a senior Prison Service Officer, that the man not be given any razors, have not been heeded, the court also heard.

Counsel said that the man, who also is the victim of a sexual assault, had on other occasions been bullied by other prisoners.

Segregation unit

The man had also been in a segregation unit for his own protection at one of the prisons where he had been detained, where the man again self-harmed, counsel said.

The man was not getting the mental health supports he needs and because he is serving a lengthy sentence he is not being prioritised, counsel said.

This failure, counsel said, is not acceptable, and it was submitted merited the courts intervention.

Counsel said that when the man was sentenced last year the judge that imposed the sentence warned attending prison staff that the man was at risk of self-harm.

The matter came before Mr Justice Mark Heslin during Monday's High Court vacation sitting.

The judge, who accepted the urgency of the matter, directed that the man's application for permission to bring his challenge be heard in the presence of lawyers for the Prison Service.

The judge adjourned the matter to a date later this week.

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